Women who are partial to movies about mothers and daughters set in the great state of Louisiana (along with the men who, heroically, accompany them to the cineplex) are among those who may leave Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood still hungry for revelation. The estrogenically fortified drama is one of those ensemble fables in which colorful broads band together to effect change – kindred chicks congregate in ”The Joy Luck Club,” ”The First Wives Club,” and ”Waiting to Exhale.” But the magnolias in Callie Khouri’s fried green movie look limp some six years after the success of Rebecca Wells’ 1996 best-seller of the same name.
The predictability of the genre contributes to the wilt: Here, the sorority (Fionnula Flanagan, Shirley Knight, Maggie Smith) convenes to broker a reconciliation between Sidda (Sandra Bullock, artificially aggravated), a petulant playwright with a family-size chip on her shoulder, and her mother, Vivi (Ellen Burstyn, synthetically histrionic), a hard-drinking tantrum thrower. But the specific droopiness of ”Ya-Ya” stems from the fact that, as played, not one character in this ovarian jungle is particularly likable. And that in her script (and feature directorial debut), Khouri, whose influential screenplay for ”Thelma & Louise” (1991) broke the buddy genre wide open, is unable to modulate the performances of her overwhelmingly showy cast.